We Play Green was represented by our founder and Climate Pact ambassador, Morten Thorsby, at the EU Climate Pact’s 2nd-year anniversary event in Brussels, Belgium. With the opportunity to speak with the DG Climate team, engage with Vice President of the EU Commission, Frans Timmermans, and participate in a panel on grassroots mobilization for climate action, the mission of We Play Green was made clear – that football can mobilize the grassroots for climate action with the help of professional player advocates and the EU Commission.
The day kicked off with a great meeting with some members of the DG Climate team. The conversation was lively around the influence football has within the grassroots communities in Europe, as well as the influence that professional players have within these communities on either a local or international scale.
Shortly after this meeting, the first panel began which involved the head of the EU Green Deal and VP of the EU Commission, Frans Timmermans. Mr. Timmermans set the tone for the event by highlighting that the green shift is possible, but lacks public support. However, his key message was that the climate pact ambassadors are the leading role models who can inspire their local communities and generate more support for the green shift through their engagement.
The EU Climate Pact is an initiative launched by the EU Commission with the goal to help the EU reach its target of becoming climate-neutral by 2050 as set in the EU Green Deal. The Pact serves as a movement connecting different levels of citizen and non-State action to combat climate change.
Morten got to talk directly with Mr.Timmermans after his panel. They talked about We Play Green’s grassroots projects and how the EU and WPG can collaborate to increase support for the green transition. We Play Green’s proposition was to use pro footballers as storytellers to communicate EU policies and initiatives in a way that is relevant and understandable for the grassroots. Additionally, on-the-ground projects in partnership with local cities, municipalities, grassroots organizations, and professional clubs can bridge communities and mobilize action and policy understanding where it is most needed and effective.
Mr. Timmermans told TV2, who was recording the conversation:
“Football players, even if they don’t know it, lead the way in society. They lead because they are role models. Many want to become great footballers, but not all succeed, very few. But the objective gives you a link to footballers. If players say, “This is how we should behave,” then they have an enormous influence”
Watch the panel recording by clicking here for Facebook and Twitter
The next milestone of the day was Morten’s panel. Morten joined three other ambassadors in a panel discussion on how citizens, communities, cities, and regions can work together to take action against climate change. The panelists covered topics such as the importance of changing public opinion and creating support for the Green Shift.
A member of the audience asked a question that was inspired by a recent instance where top footballers, such as PSG head coach Christophe Galtier and striker Kylian Mbappé, laughed off a journalist’s inquiry about the environmentally conscious decision of taking trains instead of planes to nearby matches.
In response, Morten emphasized the importance of breaking through the “bubble” of football and using the sport’s massive influence to drive change. He pointed to the powerful demonstration of the fans’ voices in the recent SuperLeague failure, which exemplified the potential for the grassroots to hold the industry accountable.
With the panelist Fons Janssen bringing up the issue of fossil fuel sponsorship and greenwashing in football, this discussion highlighted the potential of the grassroots in propelling the green shift and accountability within the context of the EU Green Deal and the Climate Pact. However, with 5 billion football fans around the world, the grassroots are the key to pushing forward the green shift in Europe and beyond.